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Growing Old While Drowning In A Sea of Technology

Bill Hensley - Photo by Ken Ketchie
Bill Hensley poses with an old-school typewriter, similar to one he used to rise through the journalism ranks. – Photo by Ken Ketchie

Editor’s Note: For nearly the past 30 years, Bill Hensley has been a summer resident in the High Country. A decorated journalist with 63 years in the profession, Hensley is a member of the N.C.  Journalism Hall of Fame and Carolinas Golf Writers Hall of Fame – among other accolades.  

Born in Asheville in 1926, Bill Hensley grew up in a different world, one without computers and smartphones and Twitter. He recently penned a wonderful article featured below that spawned from the frustration of learning how to use an iPhone and keeping up with all the other technological advances moving – seemingly – at the speed of light. 

By Bill Hensley

June 7, 2013. Modern technology is keeping me from growing old gracefully. Trying to stay in the mainstream in an ever-changing world is an uphill battle. Obviously I’m out of the loop.

As an old timer, tackling scientific advancements is frustrating, and I am drowning in a sea of computers, iPads, iPods, Kindles, Smartphones, digital cameras, e-mail, texting, Twittering, Facebook, Linkedin, Google, YouTube and countless other new-fangled gadgets.

And that’s not to mention electronic games, websites, Wi-Fi and a host of alphabetical disasters such as GPS, DVD, DVR, RSS, PPI and ATM. The challenge is testing my sanity.

All this “social media” stuff is mind-boggling, especially for a guy who was stumped trying to use an electric can opener fifty years ago. I celebrated wildly when I conquered such complicated mechanisms as TV remotes and garage door openers.

In brief, life is passing me by. Fortunately, my children and grandchildren come to my rescue often and teach me the finer points of a mechanized new world.

When I was growing up, life seemed simple. Sure, we had some new inventions to adjust to, but it didn’t seem as difficult as today’s overwhelming tasks that one must conquer to “be in the know.”

I remember such advanced technology in the kitchen as fancy new stoves and refrigerators, dishwashers, microwave ovens, washing machines and dryers. It took time, but we adapted to progress.

The same with the telephone. My first experience was talking to an operator or “central,” as some folks called it, and giving my home phone number: 1398. Then came dial phones, push-buttons, cordless and cell phones, along with voice mail, caller ID and answering machines. At present, I’m up to my ears trying to learn to use a Droid phone. Maddening!

If you think making a telephone call is a piece of cake these days, just try to make one from a modern office. Impossible.

As a youngster I faced battery-operated radios followed by small sets, big sets with dials, wireless and satellite. That’s quite a growth pattern.

A new invention called television made its debut in my early adult life. TV produced black and white pictures that came through by moving “rabbit ears” antennas from place to place to pick up a clear picture. The next step up was color TV.

Today’s large flat-screen sets, with all the complicated equipment– remotes, high definition and other complicated features—almost require a college degree to operate.

Probably the most dramatic change I have encountered is with automobiles. Cars have come a long way, literally. My first experience was starting the engine of my grandfather’s Model-T Ford by cranking it. There was no such thing as a starter button.

I bought my first car when I was 16 and in high school. My dream-come-true was a 1931 Ford Model-A with a rumble seat, running board, stickshift gear and emergency brake lever. It cost $90, and I drove it for a year and sold it for the same price.

As you know, today’s cars have every electronic feature imaginable including a GPS to tell you how to get to where you are going and cameras to show what’s behind you. But advanced engineering is expensive.

My first typewriter—a Royal—was uncomplicated. But it was replaced by an electric model, then a word processor and finally a computer.

Ah, computers, the bane of my existence.

My life took a serious turn for the worst when the computer came along. When I finally gave in and became a user, there was a dramatic change in my mood…and not for the better.

Humiliation is the first word that comes to mind.

It took weeks to learn to write articles and to send and receive e-mails. When that mission was finally accomplished, along came a variety of equally difficult apps to learn. Is there no end to this creative madness?

Need an answer to a puzzling question? Turn on your computer. Want to regain your sanity? Turn off your computer.

Now if you will pardon me I have to respond to a wedding invitation, buy a present for the couple, and reserve a room for the big event. That’s all done by logging on to websites, obviously. 

As I said, life is passing me by. Oh for the good old days………